If you were raised during the ’90s, then at some point, you were exposed to the group H-Town. The Houston, Texas trio scored a signature hit early on in the decade that helped aid in the sexual shift that was already happening in R&B music. While not as successful as Jodeci or Dru Hill, they did manage to make an impact with their single “Knockin’ Da Boots,” which helped further distance R&B groups from their more polished images in the ’70s and ’80s.
Before the dawn of hip-hop, the idea of an R&B group was pretty standard. Motown really set the foundation for a successful boy band formula with the Temptations and The Jackson 5. Clean, matching outfits. Clear and precise vocals. Minimal ad-libbing and tight harmonies and choreography. Groups like New Edition and Boyz II Men followed in this mold and had great success.
As Hip-Hop began to cross over into the mainstream, people like Sean “Diddy” Combs saw an opportunity to use its elements to birth a new era of R&B music. Dubbed R&B-Soul, he quickly ushered in acts like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci, who changed the tides of mainstream R&B music. They looked edgier, sang more soulfully, and had arguable raunchier songs and visuals.
H-Town, which consisted of Keven ‘Dino’ Conner, Solomon Conner and friend Darryl Jackson, did not initially go for this more modern R&B sound. The trio formed in high school under the name The Gents and opted for a more classic and romantic sound. They released their demo album It’s No Dream locally, fronted by the ballad “A Time For Us” with Solomon singing lead. This project and single flopped but did end up in the hands of Luther “Luke” Campbell. The 2 Live Crew frontman saw potential in the act, and after shifting Keven to lead vocal and edging up their look and sound, helped them rebrand as H-Town.
Luke’s reputation as an x-rated rapper makes H-Town’s more explicit debut “Knockin’ Da Boots” make sense. According to Urban Dictionary, “Knockin’ boots is an old western term for intimacy. Derived from both he and she stripping down and slipping their boots under the bed which sometimes made a ‘knocking’ noise.”
Releases on April 15th, 1993, it became an instant hit and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks and #1 on the R&B charts for four weeks. It sold over 1.1 million copies and was certified platinum. The song contains a sample of “Be Alright” by Zapp. It was followed up by singles “Lick U Up” and their debut album Fever for da Flavor. It earned them a slot on the Coca-Cola Summer fest tour, which also featured SWV, Jade, Shai, Silk, and LL Cool J. They won best new artists at the 1993 Soul Train awards and scored a record produced by Jodeci’s DeVante Swing for the Above The Rim soundtrack.
Despite their status as a premier R&B group, lead singer Dino got some flack when it was revealed that the woman he was singing about in the song might actually a white woman. Recently people on Twitter made the connection after finding out that embroiled podcast giant Joe Rogan is currently married to a woman named Jessica Ditzel, who was dating Dino (and had a child by him) at the time the song was written. Dino and Jessica’s daughter, Kayja, was later adopted By Joe Rogan upon marrying Jessica Ditzel.
Bee Hive every day on these apps we learn something new. A few of us may have been too young to have sipped this tea from the 90’s, but it appears that young black Twitter is in shambles after learning that H-Town’s “Knockin’ Da Boots,” may have been about a white woman. pic.twitter.com/oP1DSYUnFn— Follow Buzzworldhiphop (@Buzzworldhiphop) February 8, 2022
Someone recently tweeted, “The funniest thing about Joe Rogan is that “Knockin da Boots” by H-Town is about his wife.” Another user tweeted, “Finding out H-Town was singing about a white woman during BHM got my whole stomach doing the macarena.”
Dino and Ditzel did not date long and some claim she did not actually know him at the time the song came out. Unfortunately Dino would pass in 2003. He and his girlfriend at the time passed away in a car accident. The surviving members of H-Town continued to make music, and in 2010 collaborated with Jodeci and Pretty Ricky on the single “Knockin’ Your Heels.”
Over on social media, people seem to only speak fondly of the group, their signature song, and that overall era. “Knockin’ Da Boots” is regarded by many as one of the top 10 “Baby Makin'” songs of the time. One DJ Tweeted, “93 was probably the best year ever for slow jams” before listing off a number of records released at the time, including “Boots.”